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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  February 16, 2015 2:30pm-3:01pm EST

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ok. his book actually isn't out yet. it will be out shortly but there are reviews of it out there and i think it is very interesting to find a subject in which literature has become a tool of intelligence activity and that's what his book is about and i would like to read a short paragraph to you. there is a website which says there are eight books that you should read this summer and peter fenn's book is one of them and this is what it says about it. a work of deep historical research that reads the back story of the foreign publication of the multiple burdens likely. a sideways biography, psychological history of the
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soviet russia, a powerful argument for the buck literature and entering into the canon of the cia role in shaping the culture. in the new reporting on the agency's distribution of the book behind enemy lines, the authors showed how both sides in the cold war used the literary prestige as a weapon without resorting to the chief moral equivalency. this is a fascinating story to me. and i have never seen another article, another work which actually describes the way that intelligence activities were able to use culture, and in this particular case literature as a tool in the cold war. so without further ado i would like for peter to come up and tell you about his book itself. [applause]
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thank you for inviting me. i really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and into early september 1958 copies of the russian language edition of doctor zhivago appeared on the grounds of the brussels world's fair. it is a was a very fine addition substantial bound and blue linen and it was also very odd because there was no known publisher of doctor chicago in russian. the novel was banned in the soviet union and its fourth western publisher who controlled the rights had not contracted for an original language edition. the novel was being handed out to the soviet of visitors to the vatican pavilion and the covers were surrendering the fairgrounds as some of those who got the book, ripped off the heavy cover to make it easier to stuff in their pockets.
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the visitors that got copies understood that it was an illicit book best hidden from the kgb minders at the fair in brussels. at the cia working with dutch intelligence was behind the publication which was printed by the distinguished house. the agency saw them as an ideal place to distribute the book because the unusually large number of soviet citizens, some 16,000 had obtained visas to visit the world fair which took place over six months between april and october, 1958 at a 500-acre site just northwest of central brussels. 42 nations including the u.s. and the soviet union and for the first time, the vatican participated. the agency assumed that the
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dutch publishing house, which specialized in the language books was about to get their rights the rights to the russian language version from this addition would be passed off as an early run. there was good reason for this belief. he himself also thought that they would get the rights from milan for the executive who agreed to print zhivago this was an early sale even though he knew the whole thing was fishy and almost certainly involved intelligence operatives. the deal wasn't finalized however, and the cia edition unexpectedly became a pirate one. about 1100 copies were printed. that sparked immediate speculation about who was behind the printing and the rumors continued for decades. the german magazine noted almost immediately in 1958 dot one of
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the volunteers at the vatican pavilion was quote, associated with the militant american cultural and propaganda organization which goes under the name of the committee for a free europe. "the new york times" columnist wondered out loud who was behind the russian edition and said the answer was classified. november 151958 the cia was linked by name to the printing in the national review bulletin and used letters to supplement contributors to the national review the magazine founded by william f. buckley junior. in moscow, the national review reported these books were passed by hand to hand as a copy in the college dormitory. the speculation continued for years. some of it quite fanciful that the british intelligence forced down a plane force down a plane
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that was carrying the italian publisher from moscow and the officers secretly photographed the manuscript of doctor zhivago but he'd only once been to moscow and that was before the novel was finished. when he did pick it up in september, 1956, it was in west berlin and from berlin to milan don't travel over malta. it was also speculated that the cia published the novel in russian to satisfy the rule of the swedish academy that a work must be published in its original language to qualify for the nobel prize in literature. but the academy has said that there is no such rule and there is no copy of the cia edition in its library or archives and indeed an internal cia accounting of where the books were sent after they were printed in the netherlands show that none went to stockholm. still, others argued that the
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cia role was minimal and this was all the work of the organizations the agency sponsored. bottom line, there was lots of speculation but very few facts. i came to the story in moscow in 2007 where i was the correspondent for the "washington post." i wrote a story about a russian writers claim that the cia published doctor chicago in russian to win the nobel prize. as i noted, that was an accurate. but at the time i began to read about pasternak and just auto delete 56 and the strange bond between him and stalin even though they only spoke once and on the phone. his messy private life he had essentially two families, and the state never in prison and pasternak but they did strike
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indirectly by putting his mistress in the gulags twice. the early hostile reaction to the novel from the state publisher and glittery journals, pasternak's decision to give the manuscript to a young italian sergio deangelo and who also worked as a scout. the efforts of the kremlin in conjunction with the italian communist party to intimidate both the author and the publisher stopped the publication and got the book back. the correspondence between pasternak which is a is attested to the artistic freedom such rally broke with the communist party of which he was a leading member and financier and was a first publisher of doctor cheval which appeared in italy in november, 1957.
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it was a commercial and critical success held in part by the fact that the soviets abandoned something that was noted in almost all of the press coverage in the west. india i think there is a case to be made that if the soviet union had simply allowed a small print run and made no fuss at all doctor zhivago have drawn a small elite audience in the west and not have become the international bestseller that it did because its sales were extraordinary in its first year in the united states and 58 and 59 it sold nearly a million copies for a book that is let me tell you and presses. [laughter] and the publication followed in 1958 in france i'm in germany, britain and the united states is
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not in the soviet union obviously and not in russian. in october of 1958, they won the nobel prize in literature. the kremlin treated the award is an anti-soviet provocation and forced pasternak to renounce it. the elderly author keith is now 68 years of age was subject to an extraordinary campaign of vilification and described as a traitor in the pages by the kremlin leadership. pasternak was driven to the brink of suicide and he died 18 months later and some people including his son had said his treatment contributed to his death. pasternak's funeral, an extraordinary scene that we described in the book was attended by a huge crowd and in
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effect was one of the first public demonstrations in the soviet union. after gravesite, people loudly proclaimed him a democrat. all of that is a centrally the art of the story from the creation of the novel to his death it is a story that is partly about the cia but mostly about pasternak and doctor zhivago. it was a story that hadn't been told as a single narrative at least since robert's affair and 69. and the enormous amount of material had had emerged since the end of the cold war including the central committee and other soviet files and then then memoirs and diaries and correspondence of participants in these events. my co-author who is from the netherlands and i were introduced by a dutch writer after my story on the cia and zhivago appeared.
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she had previously written about the printing and retired a dutch intelligence officer who was involved in that operation spoke to her about the role of the cia and that was the first semi official acknowledgment of the agency participation. truck was also is modest by training. she spoke russian and lived in saint petersburg all of st. petersburg all of which alter absorbed the russian material about pasternak and the work in the russian archives. we agreed that the back story of the novel is worth telling on its own way also felt any book should try to bring something fresh and original to table. the obvious outstanding question about the role of the cia. i first approached the agency in 2009 after i returned to dc from moscow. i pulled pulled together what it together what had been written about the agencies involvement and the names of those that were
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suspected of working on the printing and prepared a memo about the potential book that i wanted to write. none of you probably will be surprised that the first response i got back from the office of public affairs was that the agency was not interested. i understood under the freedom of information act i would like to get nothing if i went that route and instead i spoke to a number of retired officers such as yourself and i would like to pause to remember one of the former members, the former cia officer and former journalist for "newsweek" and time who was helpful to me and who died before he could see this book through the good offices of bruce and some other retired officers the subject was path to the attention of the historical records division and are one of the meetings it was suggested that i potentially could either look at the
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documents in the unredacted form of the privileged access but then that would require me to allow the agency to review those relating to the operation. that is not an option i was willing to consider all the other writers have done so and i could see some situations where i might. we instead chose to get the documents in the redacted form and i was able to tease out many of the critical names we needed for the story for other public records, and all of this is described in the footnote. i'm very grateful to the offices of the historical records division and i hope that is folding into another part of the agency and will not reduce the release of the documents of the possibility of cooperation between the agency and scholars and journalists on the important historical work. the documents were over 50-years-old. but some secrets were held forever. many need not to be. it goes without saying that the history and the story of its officers and operations is part
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of our broad history and deserves to be told. and that includes the book program to underwrite the translation of the publication of millions of books and journals that were sent across the iron curtain. literature including joyce hemingway and also books on art history, economics psychology, sociology. it was described by one of its participants as a marshall plan for the mind. it deserves a full history. i got the cia documents in the regular mail to my home in northern virginia in august of 2012. it was a thrilling moment. what was most striking about the material was the enthusiasm of the officers writing about doctor zhivago and internal memos. here is the soviet russia division chief writing in july 1958 when the printing operation was already underway.
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quote, pasternak's humanistic message that every person is an title to a private life and deserves respect as a human being irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty, our contributions to the state pose a fundamental challenge to the soviet advocate sacrifice of the individual to the communist system. there is no call to revolt against the regime and an awful. but the heresy of which doctor zhivago preaches political passivity is fundamental. pasternak suggests that the small unimportant people that remain passive to the regime demand for active participation and emotional involvement in the official campaign are superior to the political activists favored by the system. further, he dared to hint that the society might function
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better without these fanatics. i don't know what kind of man knows you saw when you were at the cia but that strikes me as a pretty extraordinary one. there are many other memos like this which suggest the novel got a very close reading of the cia headquarters. the quote them in the book boat and they can now be read in redacted form at cia .gov. there was also an emphasis on secrecy to protect pasternak. the roles of the film of the photograph manuscripts were first provided by british intelligence which insisted that that there've been there would be no overt american involvement in the printing. in case it could be used by the soviet authority to her pasternak. that warning was followed by another from what of the british translators of doctor zhivago, george capped off who told the console in munich in the message a message that was forwarded it
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to moscow about pasternak had recently noted in a private conversation with one of his french translators that he didn't want the book published in russian by u.s. funded groups were in the united states. he said that this had no anti-american implication it was just a matter of personal safety for pasternak. the ideal option he said to the consul, was that the book be published in a small european country. it turned out the one chosen was the netherlands. other options of of course included switzerland or one of the other but they finally settled on the netherlands. i won't go into the details leading up to doctor zhivago's publication in russian and the netherlands because i hope some of you actually read the book. and of me just say that the first publisher at the agency
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was a trusting cold warrior who was utterly unreliable when it came to keeping secrets and to the consternation of some at the cia headquarters the operation threatens to become some kind of theater of the absurd. and that led to the agency to the agency to turn to the dutch intelligence service. at the cia decided after the award of the nobel prize to do a second edition. there were some lessons to be learned from the first. it was bulky and involving outsiders was nothing but trouble. the second edition was a miniature paperback that came in one and two volumes so that it could be easily smuggled inside of a man's suit or trouser pocket as one memo put it. inside of the government there was also a strong sense that the u.s. shouldn't overplay its hand
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during the nobel crisis and the treatment of pasternak was playing out in newspapers all across the world world and shocking people including in the countries friendly to the soviet union instead officials in washington polished what they saw as a propaganda coup that was entirely manufactured in moscow. at a meeting of the state department senior staff with john's senior staff with john foster dulles, he was told quote, the communist treatment of pasternak was one of the worst blunders. it is on par in terms of embarrassment and damage to them with the brutality and hungary. by july 1959 and eight months after the nobel crisis, about 9,000 miniature copies had been have been printed in washington. and the printing was attributed to a fictitious publishing house in paris. a russian émigré group in germany essentially said it was behind the printing. and that secret basically held
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until now as it was wisely believed the miniature edition was in fact the work of émigrés. the book was passed out, quote by agent that had contacts with soviet officials and tourists in the west. 2,000 copies were set aside for dissemination to the soviet and other communist students at the world festival of youth and students for peace and friendship which was held in vienna in late july and early august of 1959. it was the first such youth festival held outside of the soviet bloc and it attracted thousands of students including from the developing world. all of the festivities and costs were underwritten by the soviet union detective supervised by the head of the kgb alexander who had previously been president of the international union of students. the cia underwrote the cost of sending young americans to the
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festival basically to disrupt it by having them mix and debate with the soviet counterparts. my colleague at the post, walter who was there, described as quote, a college weekend with russians. [laughter] among the activities indiana was the distribution of books in many languages. 30,000 in 14 languages including 1984 animal farm and the god that failed apart from the russian edition of doctor zhivago was available in polish, german, czech, hungarian and chinese at the festival. the novel had been published in taiwan and the free europe committees within 50 copies for the 400 strong chinese delegation, which proved to be completely impenetrable. some of the chinese wouldn't even talk to the soviet and eastern european comrades, so the americans found it somewhat
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difficult to communicate with them. the soviet delegation arrived from budapest in a convoy of buses. it was a poster in half day and the windows were open. when they reached vienna and were moving slowly through the streets, the buses were swarmed. the kgb was obviously aware of these and other efforts to distribute the novel in vienna, yet they proved not to be as harsh with the students who picked up the book as one might suspect. one student rising many years later in russia said the agents told them take it read it but by no means bring it home. thank you very much. [applause]
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yes, we will take as many questions as he will allow. >> how is pasternak treated today [inaudible] >> the novel is freely available. putin doesn't worry so much about literature. it's not on his agenda. but i have to say that i think doctor zhivago and his interest in it has faded in russia. it's no longer really on the school curriculum and you can find it in bookstores. but my co-author who teaches at st. petersburg state university -- when she asks her students have you read doctor zhivago, the answer almost always is no. they have read master and margarita and pieces of the russian literature but zhivago doesn't seem to be on their radar in the same way.
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c. max [inaudible] >> sure. the movie doesn't form part of our story, but it remains in the relevant terms if you adjust for inflation, etc. it remains one of the best selling movies of all times. its hugely successful and it brought a whole new group of readers to the book and its popularized the zhivago in ways that the novel had not. the soviets hated it. absolutely hated it and it was banned of course. in fact they protested strongly when the american embassy started having private screenings in the apartment of diplomats in moscow that this was another american provocation.
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the >> [inaudible] -- were you able to discover if there was anything about the handling of zhivago? >> yes, minimal. but there was prior to pasternak winning the nobel prize. in about the three or four months before that the kremlin was getting notices from sweden from their embassy and their friends but pasternak was shortlisted for the prize. and that they could potentially face an international scandal if he one and the book remained banned in the soviet union. so, two of the literary bureaucrats inside the system wrote a memo proposing that they publish 10000 copies and circulate them to no one. [laughter] said they would announce we've published a doctor zhivago but we won't distribute it to anyone. that idea was rejected and
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instead they came up with a plan to vilify pasternak and force him to renounce the prius, which they did. pastor mack was the fourth recipient of a nobel prize to be forced to renounce it since hitler did the same to some germans in the 1930s. if you have a question or comment, please use the microphone. the >> i think one of the problems we have -- i first read the book in the 1950s when it was first out and i came to work for the cia and then i had to read it again to uncover the significance of the book that i had not -- it was so complicated
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currently in the historical division they plan to have more special events related to the book. and if you can, many of us have been musicians and if you pick the right time and place you can hear me next door. >> thank you. appreciate that. [applause] >> the final nominee for the national book critics circle award in nonfiction is capital in the 21st century. he presents his book on the economic equal that he would senator elizabeth warren, the author of a fighting chance. >> welcome to the special
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edition of the huffingtonpost live in boston at the south meeting house, which is the birthplace of the actual tea party. [laughter] the real one. [applause] so, i will be your host. iam ryan grim from the huffingtonpost. we have "the new york times" and amazon bestsellers list the first one n. the 21st century by professor thomas piketty. [applause] >> the second one, senator elizabeth warren, "a fighting chance." [applause] senator warren's book makes the case to the system is that the system is rigged on behalf of the rich and against the middle class. >> [inaudible]
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>> fortunately i won't be doing much of the talking. these two will be doing most of it. professor piketty's book makes the same case as elizabeth warren except he makes the empirical point that this has been happening for 250 or more years. senator warren, i actually want to start with you and ask you tell us what you made of "capitol." ..


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